China SubContract Manufacturing and Sourcing Solutions

Aluminium Extrusion: The History, Processes and Latest Developments

A relatively new and simple process in the industry, aluminium extrusion is able to deliver a wide range of components, from structural to aesthetic. From its historical roots through to the type of product produced today using this process, this article covers all the aspects of the Chinese market, development and processes applied.

Page 1: Historical Overview
Page 2: Latest Process Developments
Page 3: The Process in China
Page 4: Pros and Cons of the Process
Page 5: Types of Products Made

Historical Overview

The development of this process follows the work of Joseph Brahma, who first patented the method of extruding lead in 1797. This lead extrusion was accomplished by forcing a pre-heated billet through a die, using a hand press.

In 1820, Thomas Burr developed the first hydraulic press replacing the hand press. This hydraulic press is the same kind used in mass production today. By 1894, the extrusion (or as it was called then, squirting) process and was further developed, allowing for the processing of other materials such as copper and brass.

All these developments predates the availability of aluminium and, despite the existence of very useful developments within the industry, the history of aluminum extrusion took a route that is largely independent from the earlier works and developments.

Until the late 19th Century, when processes for smelting the material became available on a large scale, aluminium was a relatively rare product. The first commercial extrusion processes for aluminium was well underway by 1904, delivering aluminium extrusions to the automotive industry in the U.S. The Second World War saw aluminum extrusion develop even further in terms of both scale and capability, producing components for aircrafts.

With the high demands of the Second World War, capacity in the sector increased, turning to domestic production in the post war era. Notable developments included that in the booming residential housing sector, for which extruded aluminum channels and other continuous products are today still the staple products of the sector.

Latterly, the extrusion process found wide ranging applications, including that in the transport sector, where its relatively high initial cost is counterbalanced by savings in operating costs (due to its weight advantage over steel).

These latter applications of aluminium requires the production of extruded aluminium channels. these channels are used;

  1. Either as they are produced, coupled with minimal machining, or merely being cut to length.
  2. Or post processed into multiple components, as in the case of heatsinks, which are widely applied in the electronics industry. This post processing benefits the ability to develop complex cross section products where the thermal properties of the aluminum itself is the key benefit. The ability to produce these products are also further advantaged by the cost-effective mass production extrusion can offer.

In global terms, aluminium extrusion did have a late start, but the manufacturing and global supply capabilities of China concerning aluminium extrusion prompted the interests of the US Federal authorities. These authorities investigated the capabilities of the Chinese aluminum extrusion sector, and, in doing so, examined the rapid growth and competiveness of Chinese manufacturing operations.

Because it is a suitable process for the production of both large and small products, aluminium extrusion is a widely used process. Challenging the USA in this sector, China boasts with massive and highly competitive extrusion manufacturing capabilities.

Next Page: Latest Process Developments

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